TweetFollow Us on Twitter

Leopard's New Toolbox �

Volume Number: 23 (2007)
Issue Number: 12
Column Tag: Systems Administration

Leopard's New Toolbox

What's new for the system administrator

by By Philip Rinehart, Yale University

The toolbox

Every system administrator has a number of tools in their toolbox. Third parties provide some tools, some are home grown, and others are based on tool provided by the operating system or developer tools. While much has been made of the new gee-whiz features of Leopard, the system administrator has not been neglected! Let's start with one of my favorites, dtrace.

dtrace

In Leopard, a decision was made to include a tool developed by Sun Microsystems, dtrace. What is the tool? The description from Sun best says it, "DTrace is a comprehensive dynamic tracing framework for the Solaris Operating Environment. DTrace provides a powerful infrastructure to permit administrators, developers, and service personnel to concisely answer arbitrary questions about the behavior of the operating system and user programs." In Leopard, it has been tightly integrated with the kernel, and can track many different operations, including file systems operations, memory operations, as well as many others. They are all tracked with the use of "probes". What does this mean for the system administrator?

Dtrace allows any system administrator to track a problem of any piece software without having debugging code present. It is dynamic! There is one drawback though, one has to learn the D language, which is very similar to C. Ick, another programming language to learn. Well, not quite, fortunately a tool for using dtrace was included in Leopard, dtruss. Originally part of the dtrace toolkit written by Brendan Gregg, it has been ported over to OS X. Here's a really simple example:

dtruss ls

What does this command do? It prints a ton of information from the kernel, including file system operations, memory operations, as well as any other call that passes through the kernel. The format of the output is pretty dense however, so can an option help? You bet, add the -s for a stack backtrace. This prints information on the stack in a much more readable format, including information directly related to the call being made. A couple of other very useful options are:

-p to attach to a pid

-n to attach to the name of a process

-f to follow children of a launched process

In general, this tool could be used to track a whole host of information about processes, and problems that have previously been difficult to troubleshoot. I admit it, I'm a command line junkie, but what if there was a more fun way to do it? A new tool that sits on top of Dtrace has been introduced, Instruments. It is supposed to be "GarageBand" for developers. Sounds strange doesn't it? Let's take a quick look. Launch Instruments from the Developer Tools. Figure 1 is how the window appears:


Figure 1

Wow, cool! It's even easier to track a couple of pieces of information that traditionally have been hard to track as a sysadmin. For a quick hit, select File Activity. Figure 2 shows how the left side of the panel appears:

Note how some nice defaults have been added. All of these attributes might be pieces of information that are important when trying to track down how an application is misbehaving. Figure 3 is a quick example of what the output might look like:


Figure 2

Each individual piece of information can be examined, and it can be tracked over time. That's only the beginning! The complete library of information that can be tracked is quite large. CPU Activity, Network Activity, a huge number of things can be tracked, and not one bit of programming has to be learned. It really simplifies the tracking of problems and is really up to your imagination. No more using fs_usage to track problems, hoorah! One last thing: the information can be saved, and sent to the Developer or shared with other system administrators.


Figure 3

Packagemaker

Package construction has changed significantly in Leopard. It can now watch the file system and create "snapshots". Launch Packagemaker, select the Project menu, and then choose Add Snapshot Package. It will watch the file system and monitor all changes. Click the Start button, and the process starts. Click Stop and the process then stops. After that click Next to proceed to the screen where cruft can be eliminated. Figure 4 is an example of how it might appear:


Figure 4

Taking a look at this, it is easy to eliminate certain files right off the bat. Uncheck them if they are not to be included. Some are relatively easy, such as .DS_Store files, or files in /private/var. That's the first step! Next, Save the snapshot.


Figure 5

Figure 5 shows how the snapshot appears. From there, the new Packagemaker allows for all the permissions to be altered to whatever is desired. The snapshot of information can be customized, including look and feel. The package build process is also much more informative, as it now can highlight the problem found when building a package for distribution. The interface is highlighted, showing where the error should be fixed.

Even more has been added, an Automator-like interface has been added to pre and postinstall actions. They included loading kernel extensions, getting applications or a few other items. Requirements can even be specified so that an application can be installed only on a system that meets the requirements. Note that even snapshot packages can have these requirements applied.

These are two of the big tools that have been added to Leopard that will make a system administrator's life easier. Packagemaker can be used to repackage applications that are not in the Apple package format. Once installed, Instruments and dtruss can help the system administrator troubleshoot applications. These tools also aid the system administrator in providing feedback to the Developer of the application so it can be properly rewritten.

Now that you've read about the tools, start playing with them. I've already found them immensely useful, and made my life easier. See you at MacWorld!


Philip Rinehart is co-chair of the steering committee leading the Mac OS X Enterprise Project (macenterprise.org) and is the Lead Mac Analyst at Yale University. He has been using Macintosh Computers since the days of the Macintosh SE, and Mac OS X since its Developer Preview Release. Before coming to Yale, he worked as a Unix system administrator for a dot-com company. He can be reached at: philip.rinehart@yale.edu. The MacEnterprise project is a community of IT professionals sharing information and solutions to support Macs in an enterprise. We collaborate on the deployment, management, and integration of Mac OS X client and server computers into multi-platform computing environments.

 

Community Search:
MacTech Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

Fantastical 2.5.13 - Create calendar eve...
Fantastical is the Mac calendar you'll actually enjoy using. Creating an event with Fantastical is quick, easy, and fun: Open Fantastical with a single click or keystroke Type in your event... Read more
A Better Finder Rename 11.05 - File, pho...
A Better Finder Rename is the most complete renaming solution available on the market today. That's why, since 1996, tens of thousands of hobbyists, professionals and businesses depend on A Better... Read more
SpamSieve 2.9.38 - Robust spam filter fo...
SpamSieve is a robust spam filter for major email clients that uses powerful Bayesian spam filtering. SpamSieve understands what your spam looks like in order to block it all, but also learns what... Read more
TeamViewer 15.0.8397 - Establish remote...
TeamViewer gives you remote control of any computer or Mac over the Internet within seconds or can be used for online meetings. Find out why more than 200 million users trust TeamViewer! Free for non... Read more
SteerMouse 5.4.3 - Powerful third-party...
SteerMouse is an advanced driver for USB and Bluetooth mice. SteerMouse can assign various functions to buttons that Apple's software does not allow, including double-clicks, modifier clicks,... Read more
Toast Titanium 18.2.1 - The ultimate med...
Roxio Toast Titanium, the leading DVD burner for Mac, makes burning even better, adding Roxio Secure Burn to protect your files on disc and USB in Mac- or Windows-compatible formats. Get more style... Read more
HoudahSpot 5.0.11 - Advanced file-search...
HoudahSpot is a versatile desktop search tool. Use HoudahSpot to locate hard-to-find files and keep frequently used files within reach. HoudahSpot will immediately feel familiar. It works just the... Read more
ClipGrab 3.8.6 - Download videos from Yo...
ClipGrab is a free downloader and converter for YouTube, Vimeo, Facebook and many other online video sites. It converts downloaded videos to MPEG4, MP3 or other formats in just one easy step Version... Read more
ExpanDrive 7.4.0 - Access cloud storage...
ExpanDrive builds cloud storage in every application, acts just like a USB drive plugged into your Mac. With ExpanDrive, you can securely access any remote file server directly from the Finder or... Read more
Adobe Dreamweaver CC 2020 20.0 - Build w...
Dreamweaver CC 2020 is available as part of Adobe Creative Cloud for as little as $20.99/month (or $9.99/month if you're a previous Dreamweaver customer). Adobe Dreamweaver CC 2020 allows you to... Read more

Latest Forum Discussions

See All

New heroes and balance updates set to ar...
It feels like Hearthstone: Battlegrounds only launched yesterday, and already the auto batter addition to Blizzard's megahit card game is set to receive new heroes and balance updates. [Read more] | Read more »
Pre-register for Hello Kitty AR: Kawaii...
Hello Kitty — the cute cat that launched a multi-billion-pound franchise — has been brought to life… sort of. Sanrio has teamed up with the Bublar Group to create a new mobile game that uses AR tech to turn the real world into Hello Kitty’s... | Read more »
Gorgeous and tranquil puzzler Spring Fal...
One-man indie studio SPARSE//GameDev has now launched its tranquil puzzler, Spring Falls. It's described as "a peaceful puzzle game about water, erosion, and watching things grow". [Read more] | Read more »
Black Desert Mobile gets an official rel...
Pearl Abyss has just announced that its highly-anticipated MMO, Black Desert Mobile, will launch globally for iOS and Android on December 11th. [Read more] | Read more »
Another Eden receives new a episode, cha...
Another Eden, WFS' popular RPG, has received another update that brings new story content to the game alongside a few new heroes to discover. [Read more] | Read more »
Overdox guide - Tips and tricks for begi...
Overdox is a clever battle royale that changes things up by adding MOBA mechanics and melee combat to the mix. This new hybrid game can be quite a bit to take in at first, so we’ve put together a list of tips to help you get a leg up on the... | Read more »
Roterra Extreme - Great Escape is a pers...
Roterra Extreme – Great Escape has been described by developers Dig-It Games as a mini-sequel to their acclaimed title Roterra: Flip the Fairytale. It continues that game's tradition of messing with which way is up, tasking you with solving... | Read more »
Hearthstone: Battlegrounds open beta lau...
Remember earlier this year when auto battlers were the latest hotness? We had Auto Chess, DOTA Underlords, Chess Rush, and more all gunning for our attention. They all had their own reasons to play, but, at least from where I'm standing, most... | Read more »
The House of Da Vinci 2 gets a new gamep...
The House of Da Vinci launched all the way back in 2017. Now, developer Blue Brain Games is gearing up to deliver a second dose of The Room-inspired puzzling. Some fresh details have now emerged, alongside the game's first official trailer. [Read... | Read more »
Shoot 'em up action awaits in Battl...
BattleBrew Productions has just introduced another entry into its award winning, barrelpunk inspired, BattleSky Brigade series. Whilst its previous title BattleSky Brigade TapTap provided fans with idle town building gameplay, this time the... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Apple continues to offer 2017 13″ Dual-Core n...
Apple has Certified Refurbished 2017 13″ 2.3GHz Dual-Core non-Touch Bar MacBook Pros still available starting at $1019. An standard Apple one-year warranty is included with each model, outer cases... Read more
Save up to $120 on the new 16″ MacBook Pro at...
Apple’s resellers are starting to receive stock of new 16″ MacBook Pros, and the first set of sales & deals are now available: (1) Amazon 16″ MacBook Pros start on sale for $100-$116 off Apple’s... Read more
Apple Watch Series 3 models on sale at Amazon...
Amazon has Apple Watch Series 3 GPS models on sale for $30 off MSRP, starting at only $169. There prices are the lowest we’ve ever seen for these models from any Apple reseller. Choose Amazon as the... Read more
The ‘Mac Potpourri’ Mailbag: Edition #1- Info...
COMMENTARY: 11.20.19- Welcome to the inaugural edition of the “Mac Potpourri” Mailbag where we take a look at correspondence received from readers of this column from all over the world who write in... Read more
13″ 2.4GHz MacBook Pros available for up to $...
Apple has a full line of Certified Refurbished 2019 13″ 2.4GHz 4-Core Touch Bar MacBook Pros available starting at $1529 and up to $300 off MSRP. Apple’s one-year warranty is included, shipping is... Read more
New at T-Mobile: Switch to T-Mobile, and get...
T-Mobile is offering a free 64GB iPhone 8 for new customers who switch to T-Mobile and open a new line of service. Eligible trade-in required, and discount applied over a 24 month period. The fine... Read more
Xfinity Mobile’s Black Friday Apple savings:...
Take $250 off the purchase of any iPhone at Xfinity Mobile with a new line activation, and transfer of phone number to Xfinity Mobile, through December 8, 2019. This includes Apple’s new iPhone 11... Read more
2019 13″ 1.4GHz MacBook Pros available starti...
Apple has a full line of Certified Refurbished 2019 13″ 1.4GHz 4-Core Touch Bar MacBook Pros available starting at $1099 and up to $230 off MSRP. Apple’s one-year warranty is included, shipping is... Read more
Save up to $350 on a 21″ or 27″ iMac with the...
Apple has Certified Refurbished 2019 21″ & 27″ iMacs available starting at $929 and up to $350 off the cost of new models. Apple’s one-year warranty is standard, shipping is free, and each iMac... Read more
Early Holiday 2019 Sale: B&H again offers...
B&H Photo has 10.2″ iPads on sale again for $30 off Apple’s MSRP, starting at $299, as part of their early Holiday 2019 sale. Overnight shipping is free to many addresses in the US: – 10.2″ 32GB... Read more

Jobs Board

Best Buy *Apple* Computing Master - Best Bu...
**745516BR** **Job Title:** Best Buy Apple Computing Master **Job Category:** Store Associates **Store NUmber or Department:** 001101-Manhattan-Store **Job Read more
Best Buy *Apple* Computing Master - Best Bu...
**746655BR** **Job Title:** Best Buy Apple Computing Master **Job Category:** Sales **Store NUmber or Department:** 002518-Atlantic Center-Store **Job Description:** Read more
*Apple* Mobility Pro - Best Buy (United Stat...
**747089BR** **Job Title:** Apple Mobility Pro **Job Category:** Store Associates **Store NUmber or Department:** 000377-Prescott AZ-Store **Job Description:** At Read more
*Apple* Health Benefit Specialist - Call Cen...
Description ** Apple Health Benefit Specialist - Call Center (MAS 3/MACSC)** **Olympia, WA Multiple Positions** *The ideal candidate for this position will have Read more
Hair Stylist - *Apple* Blossom Mall - JCPen...
Hair Stylist - Apple Blossom Mall Location:Winchester, VA, United States- Apple Blossom Mall 1850 Apple Blossom Dr Job ID:1065040Salon Professionals Job Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.